September 5, 2012

3 Building Projects that Address the Living Building Challenge

guest post by Amanda Watson

Even though talk about sustainability and environmentally sound building practices have been circulating in the media for some time, not much focus has actually been given to the organizations that are taking some of the first steps to bring these conversations into reality. The Living Building Challenge is a tool for building certification that embodies a philosophy of sustainability and stringent guidelines that buildings can use to become completely sustainable. It is currently thought of as the most advanced and stringent measurement of sustainability in construction today. All elements of design are taken into consideration, and buildings must find ways to create their own energy sources and harvest their own water, among many other requirements. There have been more than a hundred projects to pursue the challenge, and the successes have broadened ideas about the possibilities to actually attain sustainable buildings. To learn more about the project, visit the Living Building website. Here are a few examples of projects that have passed the certification and still function under complete sustainability today:

1. Omega Center for Sustainable Living | Rhinebeck, NY
Designed by BNIM Architects
The Omega Center for Sustainable Living, based out of New York City, is an education center focusing on environmental concerns and a natural water reclamation facility. It met the requirements to become certified as book LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certified and is now operating under the highest environmental standards in sustainable architecture. The center provides education on environmental and sustainability issues for students, teachers, activists, contractors, architects, and government officials. The center hosts the Eco Machine, one of the top systems for non-chemically treating wastewater and regularly provides tours for anyone interested to view the machine and the other solar and geothermal systems that make the building run.

2. Tyson Living Learning Center | Eureka, Missouri
Designed by Hellmuth + Bicknese Architects
A part of Washington University, the Tyson Living Learning Center was completed in 2009 as a research and teaching space for the learning center. During its creation, the building was designed to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge specifically. The Tyson Living Learning Center now functions under complete sustainability by creating its own electricity and sourcing its own water. The center offers regular tours so interested parties can learn more about how sustainable buildings are made and see a direct example in person. Virtual tours are also offered through the center’s website.

3. Painters Hall Community Center | Salem, Oregon
Designed by Opsis Architecture
The first project to achieve Net-Zero Energy Building Certification and Petal Recognition by the Living Building Challenge, Pringle Creek’s LEED Platinum Painters Hall Community Center has become the heart and hub of this truly innovative community. Designed by Opsis Architecture, it offers office and conference spaces for Pringle Creek Staff, but also the facilities for hosting events and classes. Providing a forum for sustainability education is a primary function of the Community Center and to create a building that could embody these principles of sustainability, the project team employed a high efficiency, yet simple systems. Painters Hall is frequently used a living laboratory and classroom for students from the University of Oregon and Portland State University. The photograph above was taken during a creek restoration project undertaken by local middle school students. For all of the activities and classes that take place at Pringle Creek, the Community Center acts as the home base and gathering space.

And one project still on the boards:
4. Oregon Sustainability Center | Portland, OR
Designed by SERA Architects
The seeds for the Oregon Sustainability Center began in 2007, when a group of sustainable nonprofits came together to plan a sustainable office space in Portland. They decided to build the center to reach the goals laid out by the Living Building Challenge. In 2008, the Oregon University System decided to partner with the group to create a space that could be used for research on sustainability. Upon learning that the city of Portland, itself, was also in talks about creating a sustainable structure in the city, the municipal, academic and nonprofit organizations came together to plan and construct the final Oregon Sustainability Center, which eventually became the first high-rise, net-zero energy, water, and carbon emissions building in the world.

Amanda Watson is well versed business blogger with a keen interest in how people earn their mba online. She believes that web entrepreneurship, architecture and design is critical to success in business. She can be reached at watsonamada.48@gmail.com.

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